Google Blogoscoped

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Google Started Blurring Street View Faces

Google updated the panorama photo imagery of Manhattan as part of Google Maps, and for this update also blurred the faces of persons shown in the pictures. Google at their maps-related blog writes, “This effort has been a year in the making – working at Street View-scale is a tough challenge that required us to advance state-of-the-art automatic face detection, and we continue working hard to improve it as we roll it out for our existing and future imagery.” (Google already uses face recognition technology in Google images, by the way – just tick “faces” in the advanced options.)

Blurring faces to protect people’s privacy seems to make sense. Just last year, Google defended showing these pictures, but they might have changed their mind based, perhaps based on feedback. Google may also have further analyzed the legal situation around the world in preparation for rolling out Street View in more countries – their camera-equipped cars have been spotted in Italy and France, for instance. And who knows, perhaps Google will be able to expand this obfuscation to car license plates in the future. While blurring takes away some fun (“hey, it’s my neighbor in a funny pose posted all over the web!”) it also takes away many potential problems (“hey, it’s me in a funny pose posted all over the web!!”).

[Thanks Hebbet!]

Update: As Joe Beda notes, horse privacy is taken very seriously at Google...


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